Amazing Fantasy: A Giant-Sized Legacy
Fifty-six years ago, Amazing Fantasy #15 was published by Marvel Comics. The issue introduced the world to Peter Parker, a.k.a the Amazing Spider-Man; a hero who kids could relate to that wasn’t a sidekick. Today, Spider-Man is an icon, but his story almost wasn’t told. Marvel’s publisher, Martin Goodman, didn’t think that people would latch onto the character because of the general dislike of spiders. Despite this, the Amazing Fantasy title was slated for cancellation anyway, so Goodman allowed Stan Lee and Steve Ditko to publish the story. The Wall Crawler has been through a lot in the past fifty-six years and countless Spidey fans, along with myself, owe a great deal of gratitude to Lee, Ditko, and Goodman.
Now, being a product of the 60s, the initial writing for Spider-Man is a bit on-the-nose in terms of the character’s origin, nothing below the surface. We get to see Peter Parker, a scrawny high school outcast, get bit by the radioactive spider that bestows great power on him. Once he realizes what he can do, he decides he’s done being pushed around and doesn’t much care for anyone besides his Aunt May and Uncle Ben. After a show that he performs, he fails to stop a robbery because he deems it inconsequential to his life. Come to find out, that the criminal who kills Uncle Ben a few nights later is the same guy who he neglected to stop prior. From this moment on, Peter realizes that he has a responsibility to use his power for the greater good whenever he can, not for his own selfish purposes. While Amazing Fantasy was cancelled after this issue, the Web Head was so well-received that his story continued in a new solo series.
Fans have seen this story retold time and time again through various comic book iterations and a plethora of film adaptations, all with slight variations while keeping Spidey’s essence at their core. Writing has evolved quite a bit since Peter spun his first web, and the notion of great power and great responsibility has become much more nuanced, but it is always there in some form or another. Spider-Man has endured many traumas over the past (almost) six decades. He’s lost a lot but he’s also gained a lot because he never lets go of what makes him a hero: his heart. No matter what he loses, he always finds a way to use it to make him stronger for the future, and that is largely why we fans love him.
We see ourselves in Spider-Man. He wears a mask so that any of us could put ourselves in his shoes. I owe a lot of who I am to Spider-Man because I always saw myself as a Peter Parker growing up, as have many other fans. I’ve experienced a great deal of hard times in my life thus far, and I’m sure there are more to come. But Spider-Man has always offered a sense of empathy, belonging, and hope. With all that Peter has been through and how he comes out of all of these disasters, he makes us feel like we can go through hell and still make it back alive. Spider-Man pushed people’s fears of spiders to the wayside all those years ago because of what he represents. Stan Lee and Steve Ditko created a character to give a voice to the voiceless for generations to come, and that train doesn’t look to be slowing any time soon. Sure, there are plenty of superheroes out there than readers gravitate to who might display various lessons to be considered, but there will ever only be the one Amazing Spider-Man.